Friday, March 6, 2009

Wisdom Teeth

My roommate had her wisdom teeth removed a few weeks ago and as I was watching her sit on the couch, drooling into a Kleenex and drinking chicken broth, I started wondering why exactly we get these teeth and why some people are different from others. For instance, my roommate had to get all four teeth removed and was stuck drugged up and in pain for days. I, on the other hand, only had two of them, one of which would never give me trouble and the other only causing a slight discomfort that probably would’ve went away. Since I was still covered under my mom’s insurance, though, I got the operation. I was in and out in 15 minutes and don’t remember feeling much, if any, pain or discomfort after the operation.

So why do we get these wisdom teeth? The first obvious thought is that it has to do with evolution and the olden days.

Yeah, that’s pretty much the answer…but it’s interesting nonetheless!

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that, for most people, grow in between the ages of 17-25ish (hence the name “Wisdom” – you’re wiser than you were at 12 years old). Scientists believe the reason we get this third set of molars so late in life is because back in the Stone Age, humans used to eat a very rough diet; raw vegetables, seeds, roots, meats…lots of stuff that required pretty heavy chewing and would eventually wear down and weaken teeth. If any teeth fell out, these third molars would come in and push the other teeth forward to fill in the gaps, as well as provide fresh new teeth for munching on your favourite Wooly Mammoth steak.

So why do they cause so many problems for so many people?

Over time, our jaws have evolved to be smaller. Where we used to be alright with holding 36 teeth up in there, now most people hold around 32 (or way less, in my case) so when these third molars come in, they’re pushing up against everything else that’s been in there for a few years and shit goes down. The wisdom teeth fail to move into their proper position, and therefore become impacted; they can’t break through the gums and come in crooked or facing the wrong direction, causing lots of mouthpain. The only way to make the pain stop is to remove the teeth causing the problems (there’s a gross YouTube video of the procedure you can watch if you want) and once out, poof! All better!

I figure that since I only had two wisdom teeth, this probably means I'm more highly evolved than my roommate, right?

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh yes, I'm learning all about the hell of wisdom teeth right now. One came through normally with only slight discomfort, however another one has now broken through on a 45 degree angle and the other two are impacted. I have to get all 4 out pretty soon (the normal one wont have anything to work against if it's left in). I'm a bit nervous! My friend was conscious through her procedure, which was apparently quite horrific. Thankfully I'll be out of it for mine.